Gunn girls get basic to earn SCVAL water polo victory over Palo Alto

Sydney Hetzel recorded her first high school goal.

It's all about the basics. Gunn's girls water polo team has been feeling a little more comfortable about them lately and its showing.

The Titans put together one of their best efforts of the season in beating visiting Palo Alto, 10-2, in a SCVAL contest Thursday.

"We're just starting to get back to basics," Gunn senior goalie Zoe Banks said. "That allows us to do more advanced things."

Banks, considered one of top goalies in the country, is fairly advanced at her position, a reason she's being recruited.

She still loves playing with her Gunn teammates and it was a joyous moment when Sydney Hetzel scored her first goal at the varsity level.

"That play was specifically designed for her," Banks said. "To see it work out so well means we can help each other score. We're definitely improving because we're mastering the basics."

Gunn was also helped with the return of sophomore Cooper McKenna, who scored twice for the Titans.

"That matters a lot," Gunn coach Mark Hernandez said. "She's a great shooter and has a high water polo IQ."

McKenna and freshman Kate Mallery have given a young Titans team a boost. They'll be needed as the season progresses.

"It's taken time to work together," Hernandez said. "Our league is tough so we will have to see."

Banks pointed to a lop-sided loss to Miramonte last weekend as a valuable lesson.

"As much as it sucks to play teams like that and it was brutal, you can look back and learn," Banks said. "You can see the importance of small details. You don't see that if you're beating teams by a lot."

Palo Alto played better than the score might indicate. The first half was competitive but the game got away from the Vikings in the third quarter.

Sabrina Hall put Paly in front early and Sophie Frick's powerful shot with three seconds left in the first period tied the game at 2.

It was all Gunn afterward. The first of Mallery's team-high three goals put the Titans ahead to stay. Kara Jacobsen scored an opportunistic goal off a rebound moments later gave Gunn a 4-2 halftime lead.

Elizabeth Miksztal scored twice in the second half. Kayla Lin also scored for Gunn.

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